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How Brokers Can Prepare Their Clients for Open Enrollment

Quick Look: Summer is breezing by, which means open enrollment is right around the corner, and the time is now for brokers to help prepare their clients for what’s to come. Changes in the workplace call for a deeper dive and discussion to verify if current employee health benefits being offered are still viewed as competitive.

Exploring employee health benefits has changed considerably over the past few years as both job candidates and current employees seek health coverage which speaks to their specific needs. Though standard health insurance plans are still a valuable part of the conversation, most people seek a more customized approach.

Additionally, employees value an increased level of education and transparency to ensure they’re making well-informed decisions. Despite best efforts, research shows 35% of employees are still unclear about their health care coverage. When people don’t understand the value of a company’s offerings, there’s a greater chance they’ll seek employment elsewhere.

One survey indicates almost 70% of Gen Z and millennial Americans stated they planned to leave their jobs in 2023, with the same survey reporting that higher compensation, improved work-life balance, opportunities for career growth and flexible work arrangements all ranking as top reasons for seeking new employment. However, finding a balance between cost and value can be challenging for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to sustain. They must get creative to stay competitive.

Fortunately, one of the many built-in advantages brokers have when working with a professional employer organization (PEO) is dedicated access to a team of HR experts who can provide flexible solutions. A PEO is equipped with the tools, technology, and experience to educate employees year-round and present tailored options for brokers to engage clients and prospects.

Establish the basics

Part of preparing clients for open enrollment is evaluating how well their current employee health benefits plan is working. This helps to uncover where adjustments can be made to put their best foot forward and stand out to quality candidates. Here are a few questions to get SMB employers thinking about their current status:

Have there been changes in the workforce?

As companies grow, hire new employees, and say goodbye to others, the shifts in workplace demographics can affect the kind of benefits which will be most valuable. Being aware and making appropriate changes will help to ensure relevance remains intact. For example, telehealth, mental health coverage, and medical providers offering culturally sensitive care are among the options today’s workforce wants. When reviewing healthcare plans, these are areas employers should consider including. Even if a benefits package has worked well in the past doesn’t mean it’ll be suitable for the future.

How do employees value benefits?

However, it’s not only medical coverage employees value most. There’s been a surge in the desire to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and SMBs without strategies to support this could lose out when it comes to recruiting. Conversations and surveys about the benefits employees prioritize need to start pre-enrollment to ensure the plans being presented will be well-received. Even the best-laid plans won’t work if employees aren’t interested.

How is communication being handled?

Often, employers and their employees can feel rushed to make a benefits decision due to a lack of proactive communication. There must be enough time to relay all pertinent information and answer questions as they come up. With many companies in a remote or hybrid environment, having multiple channels of communication is important. Extending resources to include multiple virtual and in-person opportunities gives everyone equal accessibility to choose a benefits package which best meets their needs.

Make it feel personalized

In addition to establishing the basics, brokers can also advise clients on new trends. Voluntary benefits are one of the biggest topics of conversation heading into this year’s open enrollment. While companies are securing the best health coverage plans, employees are also seeking benefits which offer more personalized options and convenience. How SMB leaders respond will be a determining factor in how they compare to the competition.

Incorporating financial support and a specific focus on improving work/life balance are two of the biggest areas of employee health benefits currently in demand. Voluntary financial benefits like tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, and financial counseling services are highly coveted. Also, creative perks and benefits like hybrid work setups, flexible schedules, and a prioritization of mental health have become a standard employee expectation.

In the past, voluntary benefits often presented an overlooked value simply because employees weren’t aware of them or they hadn’t been updated to apply to current needs. As a way for SMBs to prepare for open enrollment, brokers can guide their clients on how to integrate voluntary benefits with their core offerings, making them part of the main conversation and less of an afterthought.

Start early and seek PEO support

It’s never too early to start planning for open enrollment, especially now as customization is necessary to recruit and retain top talent. It may be the first time in years SMB leaders have decided to switch up their offerings, which means it’ll take additional time to secure the right type of benefits. And SMB leaders shouldn’t have to feel like they’re racing against the clock when making such a crucial decision for their companies.

Instead, brokers can anticipate client needs by working with a PEO partner like ExtensisHR who can provide personalized options and optimize their HR opportunities. ExtensisHR helps to streamline the open enrollment process with mobile-first Work Anywhere® technology and provides ongoing expertise and support needed to make it easier for brokers to add value for their clients.

Employee health benefits are one of the key competitive advantages employers can offer, which means they deserve attention year-round. Set your clients up for success so they can feel confident as they head into the new year. Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today to get the conversation started.

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